February 8, 2016

Workable idea + bad execution = puppymonkeybaby

If you didn't see the Super Bowl ad with the puppymonkeybaby, you may or may not want to watch this. It's pretty creepy and disturbing. So let's just get it out of the way, shall we?


First of all, I had no recollection of what company this ad represented, nor could I even remember anything about the product it was advertising. I found the creature so distracting and weird, that I missed the point entirely.

However. I do believe that this commercial is an example of an idea that COULD HAVE worked, but the execution is where it went wrong. Just like many presentations I've witnessed over the years!

When we create a message for an audience, we want to make sure that all the pieces work together: the core message, the content, the structure, the delivery and the call to action. Within those are many smaller pieces that must fall into place.

You might have a great idea, but not know how to put it together in a way that is compelling or makes an impact on your audience. All the pieces have to come together. An idea is just an idea until you bring it to life. And once it becomes concrete, you have to be sure that your audience understands it, connects with it, and maybe isn't horrified by it - unless there's a good reason!

I get that Mountain Dew wanted us to know that there are three awesome things that they're putting together into their beverage. And I get that they wanted to use some kind of metaphor/example/imagery for three things that we all like that don't normally show up together. I also get that they were going for the quirky randomness that has worked well for brands like Old Spice. And furthermore, I DO like puppies, monkeys and babies! So, they totally could have scored with this (and no, not just in getting people to talk about the commercial... talk does NOT equal buying).

I'm going to share an example of a re-do, where the idea and execution are better aligned, and I would love to have you share an example if you can come up with one. Let's revamp. Same message: "Three awesome things combined." Same creatures: Puppy, monkey, baby.

My version goes something like this: Guy pulls a can out of the cold case, with a curious look on his face. What's this new drink, he wonders. Either in a voiceover, or in words on the can, we see or hear something about how this drink contains three awesome things combined.

Now, the camera shows his face again, and he starts to imagine three things he likes and how they might go together. Above his head, we see what he's imagining: First a puppy (um, no offense to pug lovers, but a cuter puppy than a pug). Yep, pretty cute. He smiles. Now a monkey joins the puppy. Maybe they interact and play. Maybe not. Then a baby. Now he's nodding at the cuteness of these three critters and enjoying his vision.

They finally fuse into the puppymonkeybaby, which waves at him and startles him from his reverie. He pops the can, takes a drink. Yum. Three awesome things combined.

Okay, I'm not a director, so don't be too hard on me. :-) This is how I envision the same basic idea being executed TOTALLY differently, but perhaps in a way that might be more effective. I don't think the initial idea of three things we like - combined - is necessarily a bad idea. It just went wrong in the implementation. 

How about you? Would you share your revamp of the Mountain Dew commercial with the same basic message and ideas in place? I'd love to read your ideas in the comments!

January 26, 2016

My theory about "winging it"

Check this out: People who "wing it" are far more afraid of failure and rejection than those who prepare, although it might seem to be the opposite.

See, if you wing it and succeed - your audience applauds, your jokes land, you come across as articulate and compelling, and people want to connect with you afterward - then you can be relieved and pleasantly surprised. You can even tell yourself "I'm good at winging it."

If you wing it and fail - your jokes bomb, you lose your focus, your ideas aren't organized, the audience is polite but bored - you can always say, "Well, I didn't really prepare. If I had prepared, it would have been SO MUCH better."

Because, OMG, what happens if you prepare and you STILL fail? Then you've wasted your time, right? You feel like, "What's the point? If I prepare, I still suck, so why bother?"

To be blunt, most people's preparation looks an awful lot like winging it, so the minimal level of preparation I frequently see is only slightly an upgrade.

We have so many stories we tell ourselves about ourselves. And so many of our stories are based on creating the hard armor of protection. We (try to) protect ourselves from looking stupid, from looking like we tried too hard, from looking like we might be human. So we hold ourselves back, afraid to take too big of a step or put ourselves too far out in front of the crowd. If no one notices us, we can't get hurt.

But what if you pushed yourself further than ever before? Further than winging it and even further than just "preparing?"

What if you changed your whole mindset about speaking, your whole mindset about the audience, your whole mindset about what you could be offering them if you actually made a sincere effort and committed yourself to excellence, connection, engagement, and transformation?

What if, through "failing" (although there's no such thing in speaking or life - just "learning"), you were able to grow and expand and become a more compelling speaker than you ever imagined? What if you were able to touch your audiences and move them to action in a way that only seems like a fantasy right now?

If you don't care about all of that, then sure, go ahead and keep winging it. Or doing the minimum of preparation. Keep protecting yourself from embarrassment, by all means.

But if you do care about making a difference to your audiences and not just getting your presentations over with, you'll have to push yourself further than you ever have. It's not as easy as winging it, but it's going to be worth it.

Interested? Check out my upcoming retreat in Santa Barbara this March, "Shake Up Your Speaking: Get Real... Get Results." No more business as usual. No more playing it safe. Get real and get results! (Only a couple spots left!)

January 18, 2016

Good things take time

Okay, maybe not all good things take time. I mean, a quick summer salad of ripe tomatoes, fresh burrata cheese and a drizzle of olive oil takes about five minutes, but it's delicious.

And I'm sure you've been struck by inspiration before, where instead of struggling with a solution for weeks, the idea came to you instantly and you were able to make a problem go away almost as soon as it arose.

But let's also say, for the sake of argument, that a masterpiece painting or a well-made garment are going to take more time to create than a quick sketch or a sweatshop t-shirt. Or that a special holiday meal for guests is going to take longer to make than a Taco Bell bean burrito. A classic novel might take years to complete. The brick house that's wolf-proof ("I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow the house in") might be more appealing to live in than the one that's built of straw.

The good news is that you don't have to spend years creating your top-notch presentation (although if you're a highly paid keynote speaker, you may spend years refining and improving it).

But I'm afraid that it's going to take longer than a few minutes. Longer than a few days. And if that's all the time you're spending on crafting your presentation, don't expect massive results from it. Don't expect lots of clients, lots of referrals or lots of sales.

What's "top-notch?" First of all, a top-notch presentation takes into account the audience's interests and desires. Your job is to serve the audience. You can't serve them if you don't know them. So first, do your research. This might mean talking to the organizer or sending out a survey to the participants in advance. Or both. Either way, this phase may take days to weeks to complete.

Then, when you know what they need, want and care about, you'll start determining what your core message is and how your core points will deliver and illustrate your message. We're going to add on another week or so for this. (I'm guessing you don't have a full eight hours every day to work on your presentation, and you're doing these things in between your other work responsibilities.)

Then, when you have the skeleton of your core message, you're going to flesh it out with stories, activities, questions, examples, analogies and discussion. If you're experienced, this might take a week; otherwise, give it more time.

If you're using slides, you'll then start to look for images that illustrate your points. (No, you're not going to load up your slides with bullets. I said "top-notch" presentation, not "put me to sleep" presentation.) This part is very time-consuming, if you want to find the right images that engage your audience, make them think, trigger their emotions and help you express exactly what you want to say.

Then you're going to practice. And no, I don't mean practice in your head. I mean, practice out loud, standing up, running through the entire presentation several times. Or many times, depending on how well you already know your material, how confident you are in your delivery and how regularly you speak in front of an audience. This will take at least a week.

This nutshell version of preparing a presentation takes, conservatively estimated, five to six weeks. And experienced speaker might take a little less time; a newbie might need to stretch this out a bit.

Good things take time. If you want a "good" presentation, you'll need at least a month. A "great" presentation? Yep, more than a month.

Think about this timeline the next time you put a presentation on your calendar. Give yourself MORE than the amount of time you think you'll need. Think of all the other work duties, distractions and procrastination that will interfere with getting this presentation done.

Think about the time you'll need for clarifying and confirming your audience's needs, your message, your structure, your delivery, your engagement activities, and your practice time.

If you're not giving yourself at least a month to prepare, you're shortchanging yourself and your audience, and you can't expect your presentations to be "good," much less "great."

Is your next presentation more than a month away? Great! That means you have time to book me for coaching at a fairly leisurely pace - no rushing, no stressing, and no last-minute panic. Get in touch.

January 7, 2016

What's your theme for 2016?

Happy New Year! 

And just like that (imagine me snapping my fingers), it's 2016. A full week into 2016. Wow!

And like the past five or six years, I have a theme to guide me. It's already been showing up again and again, through different avenues like books, Facebook memes, coaching articles and friends' experiences. What is this theme that has already drilled itself into my soul for this year? "Let Go."

I'm letting go of business practices and programs that aren't working. I'm letting go of clothes that I don't love (a little painful). I'm letting go of household items that I've kept because they were gifts, or because I thought they would be useful "someday," or because I loved them - at one time.

And I'm letting go of attitudes and habits that hold me back, keep me scared, and interfere with growth and change. Letting go is hard, but keeping stuff around that is no longer useful or helpful, that's worse.

Do you have a theme word, goals or resolutions that you're aiming for this year? And how do those goals tie into your desire to improve your public speaking? (You wouldn't be here if you weren't interested in improving your speaking, right?)

For example: Your theme word is "confidence" (a theme I see popping up a lot on Facebook). What better way to build your confidence than to learn how to master your speaking and connect with your audiences?

Your theme word is "trust" (mine from last year). What better way to honor this theme than to learn to trust your strengths and abilities onstage?

Your theme word is "achieve" (from the site My One Word). What better way to feel the satisfaction of achievement than to learn how to properly design and deliver a presentation that offers transformation and truly impacts your audience?

Improving your public speaking, learning to connect with and engage your audiences, and understanding and implementing the four basic principles of speaking will grow your life and your business no matter what your theme is for 2016.

This year, I'm offering my first live speaking retreat, here in Santa Barbara, California, from March 21-23. Watch the video below for more information and visit the registration page here. There are only four spots left out of twelve, so don't delay. This is the best time of year to make new commitments and stick to them!

December 21, 2015

Mindset mastery is an ongoing process

Two years ago, I started working with a client who does a lot of speaking, but hates mingling with the audience before presentations. He stays in his car until the last minute, and then takes the stage at the appointed time.

During our work together, he became much more comfortable with joining the group before his presentation, even sitting at the table and conversing while they ate their meal (he doesn't eat before he speaks; nor do I!). 

He came to understand how acting as the "host" to the people in the room gave him more confidence and improved his overall comfort level at events, and he began to make this part of his routine.

We recently started working together again, and guess what: He's back to sitting in his car before presentations and walking in at the last minute.

He knows, logically, that mingling with the audience is a benefit - both to them and to him - but he can't bring himself to do it. He's having to start all over and reboot his mindset about acting as the host.

Part of his problem is that his many presentations are all clustered into a short period at the beginning of each year. Once this cluster of presentations is over, he doesn't have to think about them for almost a whole year. He just plain gets out of practice, and not just with speaking, but with his mindset.

Like anything else that requires practice and repetition, getting your mindset in order is not a "one and done" kind of deal.

Take your gym habits, for example. Okay, let's take MY gym habits. When I get into a routine of working out, I'm unstoppable. I'll go every day, or every other day, or whatever schedule I've laid out for myself. But once I get out of my routine, it's nearly impossible to get started again. And it becomes an experience of starting over from scratch. This happens once every couple of years for me, and for a lot of people.

Another example: There's an activity that I've been doing in my presentations for years. After a session this spring, I decided it just wasn't working. I couldn't put my finger on how exactly to fix it, so I decided to pull it, and I stopped using it in my trainings. This would have been unthinkable a couple of years ago, but I've changed my mindset about letting things go. In fact, my theme for 2016 is "Let go." I don't feel like I have to stay attached to my offerings like I used to. If something isn't working, I'm happy to move on and try something else, maybe coming back to it after a time. This is a relatively new mindset for me, but it's working - as long as I keep reminding myself that it's okay to let go!

Just like anything else important in your life, you don't change your mindset overnight. It requires belief, practice, repetition and commitment.

For a more in-depth look at mindset, what it is, and how to manage it, check out my free webinar: "Get Psyched: Mindset Secrets of Successful Speakers." It's replaying for a limited time here.

November 3, 2015

Create a safe space for group interaction

The other day, I was talking to a client about some problems she had experienced during a presentation. She had encountered a group who was resistant to some of her ideas and essentially put up a roadblock to any further discussion. She didn't realize her topic was going to be so divisive and contentious and hadn't planned for how to deal with the few troublemakers who dominated the meeting. Afterward, she discovered that quite a few people in the room had wanted to speak up, but were not comfortable doing so.

Now for some of you who do trainings like this on a regular basis, where your topic might be controversial or uncomfortable to the group, you probably have some practices in place to prepare for and deal with dissent. But for those of you who are caught off guard by a difficult audience, or have a sneaking suspicion that you might encounter some resistance from your audience, there are a few things you can do to increase the group's trust and receptivity to your ideas and increase the group's willingness to engage with you and with each other.

Here are a few tips on how to create a safe space for your audience that encourages everyone to feel comfortable enough to speak up and share their feelings, experiences, and ideas.

1. Start with a group agreement

Together as a group, create some guidelines on a flipchart that spell out the behavior you would like to see in the group. Ask a question of the group like, "What would make this workshop a safe and respectful place for everyone?"

Take a few minutes to write down points offered by the group. If they leave out something that you consider important, ask them if you can add it to the list. Make sure the group understands each point, and then go over each item asking for the group's explicit agreement. Display the flipchart in the front of the room so that everybody can see it throughout the meeting.

If your meeting is short, bring your own pre-written guidelines, ask for any additions or changes, and get group agreement.

By asking for the group's agreement, you have now put guidelines in place for everyone to follow. And if you run into difficulty with members of the group refusing to demonstrate the behavior that they've agreed to, you're now in a position to ask someone to leave, if necessary. You can find examples of group agreements on the Internet; this is definitely not something that needs to be reinvented.

2. Start with small group activities before moving on to large group activities

If members of the group don't feel completely comfortable participating right at the start, having them do activities in pairs or triads is a way for them to test the waters, articulate their thoughts, and develop a comfort level within the group. This is a good idea for any group, whether or not there will be difficult issues. discussed. In general, most groups need to warm up to the idea of participating before the majority is willing to jump in.

Provide a couple of activities where participants are given the opportunity to discuss an issue, solve a problem, or share something personal with one or two other people, and through the process, you'll build trust with them and amongst the group. They'll be much more inclined to speak up when you bring those issues or concepts to the larger group.

3. Don't try to cram too many activities into a short presentation

Activities where you know your audience might experience some discomfort will require time for personal and group processing. Trying to do too many activities or exercises where the group doesn't have the opportunity to process their thoughts and feelings will just lead to chaos and disconnection.

4. Help the group feel empowered to come up with their own solutions

Oftentimes, when we're dealing with a difficult issue or problem, participants feel overwhelmed, powerless, and sometimes even personally attacked. Try to maintain a solutions-focused approach instead of focusing on all the things that are wrong now or have been wrong in the past. Asking the group to brainstorm a vision and forward-looking solutions brings a more positive energy to the room and helps reduce feelings of guilt, frustration, and powerlessness.

5. Bring in a neutral party

By "neutral party," I'm not referring to a person. I'm referring to a box! When I worked with youth discussing difficult and uncomfortable issues like puberty and reproductive health, the anonymous question box was some participants' best friend.

Some of your attendees will never ask a question or make a comment. That's just the way it is. However, offering a fun option like the anonymous question box allows everyone in the room to say what they want to say.

The trick to the anonymous question box is to make sure that everybody writes something. Hand out small pieces of paper to everyone in the room and tell them that, for the questions and comments to remain truly anonymous, everybody needs to write something down. This way, it's not obvious that certain people are submitting questions. In the past, I've gotten comments from participants like, "I like your earrings," or "What's your favorite food?" It doesn't matter what people write, as long as everyone has an opportunity to share their thoughts or questions.

This is an excellent way to bring up issues that people may not feel comfortable expressing in the large group. Your job is to answer every question or respond to every comment as honestly as you can and to the best of your knowledge and ability.

Next time you find yourself in a situation where the audience seems uncomfortable with or upset by your topic, try some of these ideas and see if your audience is more receptive to your message and more willing to participate.
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